Eco-friendly program to educate homeowners on improving water quality, runoff

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 1, 2019

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — In an area chock full of water resources, local experts want citizens to realize that they can make a difference right at home.

From 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, Michigan State University Extension will offer an “Eco-Friendly Landscaping for Water Quality” program designed to educate individuals of all experience levels. It will take place in assembly rooms A and B at the VerKuilen Building, 21885 Dunham Road in Clinton Township.

The program will be led by Terry Gibb, an MSUE coordinator who specializes in natural resources and government public policy. A similar conservation-type program took place in 2017, when Macomb County residents were asked by officials to conserve water following the 15 Mile Road sewer interceptor collapse.

“With the increases in flooding that we’ve been seeing the last year or two, we decided we would update (the program) and resurrect it,” Gibb said.

Common rain events can majorly impact rivers and lakes by way of collected contaminants. But surface waters can be preserved and protected in different ways, including adding attractive landscape features that are designed to collect and prevent water runoff.

The first portion of the program is based on educating attendees on stormwater origins and management, how issues can affect local municipalities and southeast Michigan as a whole, and how low-impact development techniques and the correct choosing of native plants can lead to positive results.

Stormwater runoff can promote unfortunate results, often due to impervious surfaces. Gibb used the example of home driveway expansion with cement encouraging runoff. Pavers are a preferred alternative.

Lawn mowing comes into play, as longer grass leads to more water infiltrating the earth. She recommended cutting lawns to “carpet height,” which also prevents lawn clippings from being swept into sewer systems.

“All of that goes to the storm drain, which goes to the nearest river or stream and increases aquatic plant growth,” she said.

Low-impact development techniques, also referred to as LIDs, involve simple ideas that can go a long way. Those include rain gardens, green roofs, and utilizing rain barrels and knowing where to put them to achieve the most success.

Pavers, as previously mentioned, tend to cost more for homeowners, but offer better long-term management and quality, Gibb said.

As for plants, it’s up to homeowners to choose how to improve their own environments — such as knowing soil types and conditions, and having an idea of what kind of plants they enjoy.

A second portion of the program will involve participants who are asked to bring in pictures or sketches of their yards and properties, while master gardeners and other experts on hand will offer suggestions on how to improve them.

“We actually help them start designing something for the property,” she said.

There is a value of doing this program now, at the beginning of fall. Gibb said it gets people’s minds racing and allows them to hit the ground running once spring returns.

Once potential designs are reached for future home improvement, homeowners can either try projects on their own or hire a company for design implementation.

Participants must bring sketches and photos of their property for consideration. The pre-registered program cost is $8 per person or $10 at the door, and includes instruction, a “Landscaping for Water Quality” book, additional handouts and hands-on assistance.

The deadline for preregistration is Oct. 9. To register or for more information, visit canr.msu.edu/academics/events or email gibb@msu.edu.

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